Sadly STO has an extreme nickel and dime approach. If you make a leveling mistake, you have to pay to fix it. In order to buy an item more than 10 mil credits, you have to pay 5 bucks to remove the cap. Not enough inventory space? (there isn't enough) You have to pay 4 dollars, 4 times, on 1 character to max space out. It doesn't even cross over to other chars. Not enough bank space? 3 bucks, 4 times, for 1 character. You can waste day after day slaving away getting dilithium ore to exchange for zen. But that's real fun, especially how illiberal it is with the ore and that you cannot refine more than 8k per day.
Well, you have the choice between alá carte play or sub. Many of those benefits are included already and aloow higher slot caps already like the EC limit on all characters or additional free bank space and lots of other quality of life services for Gold players.
The whole game is completely free to play. You don't need to pay a single dime and if you still want extra services you can work for them ingame through the exchange. No one is forced to pay real money ever.
The money route is just mor convenient and faster of course. And apparently enough people have enough money to burn to make that possible for true free players.
When I compare the F2P model with what TOR is doing I can only pull my imaginary hat to the devs at Cryptic. Their model is leaps and bounds better and more fair.
Everything you unlock through whatever means you keep forever and eventually you get to a point where you maxed all that stuff and don't even have to pay extra for convenience anymore.... Consumables for extended access to flashpoints, pvp matches, operations?!?!?!? Not in STO!